Managing Smart: Navigating The World of Team Conflict

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

By Melanie Rodriguez, Rose Quiles and Chanda Postell, Assistant Directors, Organizational Development and Human Resources

Let’s face it — conflict happens. Some embrace it, while others have a tendency to avoid it. Some view it as an opportunity for growth, while others view it as a troublesome roadblock. In fact, navigating conflict effectively CAN be learned!

As leaders, the expectation we often place on ourselves is that we handle these conflicts as beautifully and carefully as those judges seen on TV. You know, those shows where justice is served and promises are kept?

But we know all too well that it doesn’t always happen that way. Managing conflict with teams (task) is a challenging job, and the pandemic (care) and virtual work environment (connection) have made it all that much harder. These dynamics have created new challenges that we did not expect at all.

That is why we, your Organizational Development and Human Resources (ODHR) regional assistant directors are offering you our expertise and tips we believe will be helpful as you continue leading teams in conflict in these times.

Let’s begin with the realization of what you may have already heard or realized — conflict resolution in 2020 is not like it has been in previous years. Adding the element of care for yourself and those who rely on you as you navigate through these times may make this an arduous, complex and draining task.

Oftentimes, we find that leaders can either be too lenient in addressing concerns or too strict, focusing on every detail. Our recommendation is to find your sweet spot — the middle ground in conflict resolution that helps you maintain consistency and transparency with your teams.

We also have to acknowledge that working remotely and having less of a direct connection with our employees can have a big impact on our sweet spot. Furthermore, as leaders, it is imperative to recognize not only how our teams and department views and handles conflict, but also how we ourselves handle it.

ODHR offers the following tips:

1. Acknowledge your way of handling conflict. Do you embrace it or do you avoid it? Could it shift depending on the person? The context? Does it remain consistent? Being honest with yourself and recognizing your way of handling conflicts is a huge step forward in the right direction as a leader. It helps for you to recognize your natural tendency and to then navigate your way through the situation based on this knowledge. Is this a conflict I can let cool off or is there an immediate need for my intervention?

Listen to your employees to understand the root cause of the conflict and respond to them within a timely manner. Our schedules are demanding but letting an employee know the status of their concern can go a long way.

2. As a leader, are you creating and maintaining an environment that is conductive to healthy constructive conflict? What is the culture in your department regarding conflict? Does your team know who they can talk to regarding conflict? It’s important to recognize that, as a leader, your actions drive your departmental culture. Think about ways you can emphasize your availability to your employees and your openness to talk freely with them. For those working virtually, having monthly coffee/tea chats to stay connected can help. We know as an ODHR regional team that having these coffee/tea chats are refreshing and helpful — and we even get to show off our favorite mugs.

3. Always have your resources readily available. Having a toolkit of resources available to employees can be helpful during those high-emotion conversations. We can’t tell you how often we encourage our leaders to have the Optum Employee Assistance Program (EAP) flyer easily accessible on your computer or on hand to share with your full-time employee. For our part-time employees, we have the United Way’s 211, a free resource by going to 211.org, dialing 2-1-1 or texting your zip code to 898-211. You can also reach out directly to your ODHR regional assistant director regarding resources and questions.

At Valencia College, we recognize that growing in our conflict navigation management skills is not a linear process, yet a must-have relationship in our current climate. If you’re still struggling with addressing conflict, we want to provide you as many materials and resources as possible.

For tips on how to have constructive conflict management skills, check out a previous Managing Smart article: Eight Tips for Constructive Conflict Management.

Another great resource on this topic is our Navigating Team Conflict Summer Session hosted by Senior Director, ODHR Liz Suarez and Coordinator of Employee Development Jaclyn Taylor. You can watch the recording here.

As always, if you have any questions related to this article, please reach out to HR4U at HR4U@valenicacollege.edu or 407-582-4748, or contact your ODHR Regional Solution Center leadership team.

Chanda Postell – assistant director, ODHR East Region
East Campus, Winter Park Campus, School of Public Safety
407-299-5000, extension 3422
cpostell2@valenciacollege.edu

Melanie Rodriguez – assistant director, ODHR Osceola Region
Advanced Manufacturing Center, Osceola Campus, Lake Nona Campus, Poinciana Campus
407-299-5000, extension 4307
Mgonzalez10@valenciacollege.edu

Rose Quiles — assistant director, ODHR West Region
Downtown Campus, West Campus, District Office
407-299-5000, extension 5001
Rquiles9@valenciacollege.edu

Lisandra “Liz” Suarez — senior director, ODHR
Collegewide
lsuarez@valenciacollege.edu
407-299-5000, extension 4710

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